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The corporate race to lead in green hydrogen

Friday, 15 January 2021

Industrial gas and engineering company Linde announced it will build, own and operate the world's largest PEM electrolyzer for green hydrogen at Leuna in Germany by the second half of 2022. Meanwhile industry giants Total and Engie have partnered to develop France's largest renewable hydrogen production site beginning in 2022. 

European Commission's green hydrogen support

The European Commission (EC) has been a supporter of clean hydrogen emphasizing its key role in Europe's green recovery plan and the region's race towards a net-zero society by 2050. Furthermore, the EC has stated its clean hydrogen transition timeline visualized below and established the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to build investments in this transition within the EU. 

Corporate response to decarbonization

In response to these plans within the EU, a multitude of large European corporations have committed decarbonization plans incorporating green hydrogen.

Linde and ITM Power joint venture

In a press release on 13 January 2021, Linde announced that it will build, own and operate the world's largest 24 MW PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyzer plant to produce green hydrogen at the Leuna chemical complex in Germany that will supply the company's industrial customers through its existing pipeline network. Additionally, Linde will distribute liquefied green hydrogen to refueling stations and other industrial customers in the region. The total clean hydrogen being produced will be able to fuel approximately 600 fuel cell buses, driving 40 million km, and saving up to 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide tailpipe emissions per year.

"Clean hydrogen is a cornerstone of the German and EU strategies to address the challenge of climate change. It is part of the solution to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions across many industries, including chemicals and refining," said Jens Waldeck, President Region Europe West at Linde. He further stated that the project "shows that electrolyzer capacity continues to scale up and it is a stepping stone towards even larger plants." Linde currently has the largest liquid hydrogen capacity and distribution system in the world. 

The electrolyzer will be built in a joint venture between Linde and ITM Power, using high-efficiency PEM technology. The plant is due to start production in the second half of 2022. The new 24MW electrolyzer will surpass the 10MW electrolyzer located in Japan that uses a 20MW solar array near Fukushima, currently the world's largest. 

Total and Engie joint venture

Meanwhile across the border, French oil titan Total and French multinational utility Engie also announced in a press release dated 13 January 2021 that they have signed a cooperation agreement to design, develop, build and operate the Masshylia project which will become France's largest renewable hydrogen production site at Total's La Mède biorefinery. The 40 MW electrolyzer will be powered by solar farms with a total capacity of 100 MW and will produce 5 tonnes of green hydrogen per day to meet the needs of the biofuel production process at the biorefinery.  

The project will save 15,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and is designed to manage the intermittent production of solar electricity while catering to the biorefinery's need for a continuous supply of hydrogen. This will be achieved through the implementation of the following five innovations: 

  • Real-time management of solar electricity production. 

  • Optimization of solar farms supplying the electrolyzer, minimizing energy losses, and limiting grid congestion. 

  • Large scale hydrogen storage to balance intermittent solar electricity production while providing continuous hydrogen supply. 

  • Direct current connection between solar farm and electrolyzer to improve energy balance. 

  • Enhanced industrial safety through the use of 3D digital models for each component of the installation. 

"Innovation and sustainability are at the heart of this joint project. As demonstrated by our commitment to the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance, we believe in the future of renewable hydrogen, and we are working with our partner Engie to make it happen. This renewable hydrogen production facility, combined with our expertise in solar energy, is a further step in our commitment to get to net-zero by 2050” said  Philippe Sauquet, President Gas, Renewables & Power at Total. 

"The partnership between Engie and Total, by its scale and its very ambitious integrated approach, embodies Engie’s renewable hydrogen development strategy to reduce our client's CO2 footprint. It also paves the way for a multi-usage renewable hydrogen hub in the near future, strongly rooted in the region and with an international outreach." said Gwenaëlle Avice-Huet, Engie’s EVP in charge of renewable energies.

The two partners aim to begin construction of the facilities in 2022, following the completion of an advanced engineering study, with a view to production in 2024. This is subject to acquiring the necessary financial support and public authorizations. The project has already applied for subsidies from the French (AMI) and European authorities (IPCEI, Innovation Fund). 

As Europe ramps up its efforts towards decarbonization by 2050, the market will continue to see corporations especially those with a carbon-intensive history race towards low carbon solutions while pushing to become market leaders within low emission sectors 


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